Chapter Two: Maris

I carefully balanced a tray piled high with some kind of smoked meat and vegetables. Aryn followed behind me with bread and something that resembled an Earth salad that’d been colored by a toddler. Parria, brought up the rear, carrying a huge pot of steaming sauce.

I didn’t understand why we still brought meals to the alien women in the cargo hold. It wasn’t as if their door was locked. Shenna and Kayln had repeated they were free to move around the ship.

It’d be nice if they felt free enough to take themselves to the mess hall.

Though, if I had the option to lounge in my room all day while someone fed me, I’d take it, at least for a while.

Maybe they had some kind of complex? They’d been prisoners for ages for all we knew. Maybe they forgot they had free will.

God, that would suck.

When we reached the cargo hold, I bumped the door open with my hip.

“You’re late,” one of the alien women attempted a smile.

I knew she was joking, but she’d only just grasped the basics of Terran and didn’t understand how tone affected the meaning of words. She sounded like a spoiled madam. Her smile was unsettling. The way her mouth was shaped made me think that smiling wasn’t natural gesture among her people, whoever they were.

“Keep your pants on, we aren’t going to let you starve,” Aryn said when I didn’t say anything.

“I do not understand,” the alien girl spoke again. Her white hair shone in the perpetually dim light of the cargo bay.

Rescuing these alien girls was a great idea at the time. I mean, it was the right thing to do, but seriously the consequences were a complicated pain.

They were about to be sold off to rich perverts one by one when the Captain, Chief Aavat and our very own Kayln and Shenna stepped in and smuggled them onto the Rogue Star.

I wish I’d taken part in the rescue. I would’ve gladly smashed the face of anyone who tried to touch these women.

And, to be honest, that’s probably why I wasn’t included in the mission.

I still couldn’t believe it was Shenna of all people who found them. She and the first mate, Aavat, snuck off the ship a few times. I didn’t think she had the nerve to do something like that. In a weird way, I was proud of her. She always came off as innocent, maybe even a little naïve, but it turned out she has bigger balls than half the males on this ship.

“You don’t have to understand,” I assured the white-haired alien girl. “Come get some food.”

The girls lined up as they always did, except for one. The same one that never moved from her spot in the back of the cargo hold. Her dark skin almost blended in completely with the dark steel of the hull, except she shimmered in the light, just a bit. Her eyes looked like amber pebbles. I swear, she never blinked.

She was one creepy chick.

The ship’s doctor Lynna, who was more of a mother than my own mother ever was, used to worry about Amber-Eyes when she didn’t eat.

But it’d been nearly a week, so I guess Amber-Eyes belonged to a species that didn’t need to eat often.

Lynna still fretted, because that’s what she did. Maybe it was part of being a good doctor.

As I moved through the cargo hold, passing out food and putting on my nice face, I noticed Amber-Eyes following me with her unblinking gaze. I felt her eyes on my neck and back as if she was pressing her fingers against my skin.

It didn’t take long for me to get fed up with it.

“Can you hold this for me?” I pushed my empty tray at Aryn.

She scrambled to take it without dropping her own.  “What the hell, Maris?” she grumbled, but I’d already walked away. I crossed the cargo bay and stopped a few feet from Amber-Eyes.

“Is there something wrong?” I asked.

Her expression twisted into something fierce and ugly.

She rose to her feet faster than a human would’ve been able to do. She bent her arms inward, exposing the black talons that stuck out of her elbows.

She spoke to me, but I couldn’t understand a word of it. Her language sounded like a hissing snake.

“This is exactly what I’m talking about,” I groaned. “There’s no need to be a hostile bitch!” I threw my hands up in exasperation. Amber-Eyes hissed and swung at me with extended claws that looked like miniature versions of the talons on her elbows.

“Big mistake,” I snapped.

“Maris!” Aryn appeared at my side. “I don’t think the Captain would like it if you battered one of our charity cases,” she muttered to me.

“She’s going to batter me!” I said in defense.

“She’s a nutter for sure, but be the bigger person,” Aryn insisted.

Aryn was the best friend I’ve ever had. We met on the Persephone station years ago when my temper was twenty times more explosive than it was now. She was good at talking me out of a rage, though she wasn’t known for her mellow disposition either.

For some reason, people always thought the best way to get me to stop being angry was to say things like relax, calm down, or the dreaded take a deep breath.

Aryn figured out early on that a healthy dose of do you know how dumb you’re being? was the best way to take the fire out of me.

“Fine.” I stepped away from Amber-Eyes who still looked like she was ready to kill me.

“She’s just psychotic because she went through hell,” Aryn reminded me.

“I know, I know,” I nodded. “But the others went through hell too. You don’t see them trying to slash me up.”

“You know better than anyone that people cope in different ways,” Aryn reminded me.

“When did you get so wise?” I rolled my eyes. “I’m not a shining example of healthy coping mechanisms, I know.”

“She won’t be with us forever,” Aryn reminded me. “Just try not to punch her lights out while she’s here.”

“You’re right,” I agreed. “Now, you need to mess something up, so I can lecture you.”

“It’s not even midday yet,” Aryn laughed.

“I know! You’re behind schedule,” I replied. I risked a glance at Amber-Eyes. She was still staring at me, unblinking and seething with anger. “I think I’m going to go.”

“Smart choice.” Aryn patted my shoulder.

The other human women, Parria, stared at me with wide eyes as I left the room.

I told Commander Kalyn that putting me on the care rotation wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t have those naturally nurturing tendencies women like Lynna had.

Though, aside from Amber-Eyes, I liked the other alien women well enough. They’d had it rough, even rougher than us human women. And we were moments from being exposed to vacuum, so that’s saying something.

I wasn’t sad to leave Katzul. That place was weird and my definition of weird had changed considerably over the last few weeks.


No, that wasn’t weird to me anymore.

Aliens putting on fancy clothes to go and buy other aliens?

Yes, extremely weird.

And disgusting. Even Amber-Eyes didn’t deserve a fate like that.

She was still a bitch though.

I stomped through the halls. My sisters always told me I moved like a tornado. Everyone knew when I was coming. Everyone knew when I was going.

I tried my best not to destroy things as I moved. Sometimes it happened anyway.

Sometimes I felt bad about it.

I made my way to the engineering workshop near the rear of the ship. A station had been set up as my workspace, but I was still settling in.

I was the Head Engineer on the Persephone station.  Technically, I was the only engineer, so the Head Engineering position was mine by default.

Humility be damned, I was one of the best engineers in the Terran System.

The best thing about the station being destroyed, being dragged into an alien universe, and probably never going home?

Brand new, interesting tech to learn.

I was immediately put to work on the Rogue Star, which was great. I loved my work.

It was fun getting to know the inner workings of an alien spaceship.

Unfortunately, the Head Engineer of the Rogue Star was not enthusiastic about sharing a workspace. Orrin was a talented engineer. We might not be the best of friends, but I could give credit where credit was due.

But as talented as Orrin was, he had a bit of a sharing problem.

I felt qualified to comment on this, because I had one too.

Since he was technically my superior, he decided who did what job.

Morning, noon, and night he had me doing basic upkeep jobs I could do in my sleep. It was unbelievably dull.

Though I hadn’t been aboard long, I already had so many ideas to make the ship operate more efficiently.

Orrin never listened, though. Clearly, he didn’t trust anyone else with his ship. One day, I’d prove to him that I could take on more complex jobs without blowing us into a black hole.

But, for now, I had to be content to tinker at the workbench.

I sat down at the workbench and picked up pieces of scrap.

Working with my hands melted the tension right off my bones.

I forgot about Amber-Eyes, grumpy pants Orrin, and everything else immediately and entered my happy place.

As always, I’d love to know what you think!  Rogue Instinct is available for pre-order now!

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